Yesterday, we began our examination of trends in the Illinois Supreme Court’s civil and criminal dissents. We discovered that dissents were at an extremely high level on the criminal side, and somewhat elevated on the civil side, but have settled down in the years since. The average length of the civil and criminal dissents started to creep up halfway through our first eight years, before definitely increasing in the 2005-2007, when majority opinions were also edging up.
In Table 347, we report the average data for civil and criminal dissents between 2008 and 2015. We see that for much of this period, the average length of civil and criminal dissents was fairly similar. In 2008, civil dissents were up to 7.14 pages, while criminal dissents averaged 9 pages. The following year, civil dissents were flat at 7.2 pages, while criminal dissents averaged 7.55 pages. In 2010, civil dissents were up slightly to 8.1 pages. Criminal dissents were down a bit, averaging 6.69 pages.
In 2011, dissents in civil cases were slightly longer, averaging 8.8 pages. Criminal dissents were up slightly as well, averaging 7.14 pages. In 2012 and 2013, dissents got noticeably shorter. For 2012, the average civil dissent was 5.95 pages to 4.67 pages on the criminal side. The next year, civil dissents averaged 5.8 pages to only 3.29 pages for criminal dissents. In the most recent two years, dissents have edged back up a bit, but not reaching the levels they were at even as recently as 2011. In 2014, the average dissent in a civil case was 6.43 pages. The average criminal dissent was only slightly longer, at 6.86 pages. Last year, civil dissents were up a bit, averaging 8.44 pages. Criminal dissents, however, were down slightly at 5.83 pages.
Join us back here next week as we turn our attention to a new subject, studying the Court’s history with amicus curiae briefs in civil and criminal cases.